In these days of social distancing due to COVID-19, lots of families are looking for new activities they can enjoy while staying safer at home together. With many community activities put on hold, a family book club is a terrific new way for your family to connect, talk, and have fun.
Being able to read is one thing, but really enjoying books is completely different. That’s what a family book club is all about: exploring books—old favorites and new reads alike—simply for the fun of it. It allows a family to connect over their like (or dislike!) of a book, to talk about what the books mean to them, and develop the sense that all reading is worthwhile.
Ready to try it out with your family? Here are some tips for choosing books and guiding an engaging, but fun, conversation about them. Plus, we’ve rounded up 11 of our favorite books s for your family to try, with coordinating activities for your meetings. Enjoy the literary journey!
Learn how to choose family book club reads.
Choose books kids can read on their own.
Reading aloud together is definitely a treasured and valuable family activity. For a family book club, though, select books kids are able to read on their own. Remember, the purpose here isn’t necessarily to improve reading skills; you want kids to simply learn to love reading. Find books well within their reading level so the experience is a fun one. Check out our extensive reading lists for guidance.
Take turns choosing a book.
When parents choose all the books, it can start to feel too much like school. Let kids make choices too! Yeah, you might end up reading the latest Captain Underpants book. But you might also end up liking it! Grown-ups, when it’s your turn to choose, try to think of books you truly loved and want to share, especially those books that kids might not necessarily encounter in school.
Try new genres and styles.
This is the time to expand horizons. If your family normally prefers fiction, choose a biography or a non-fiction book instead. Family book club is ideal for exploring the ever-growing world of graphic novels too. Make a rule that each new book you choose has to be of a different genre or style than the last one. Just finished a historical fiction book? Choose a biography next, followed by a mystery.
Don’t be afraid to read something just for fun.
The number one word that comes to mind when you and your kids think about your book club should be FUN. So don’t worry about always picking books to “help kids grow” or “spark important conversations.” It’s good to have those in the mix, but it’s also okay to choose something to read simply because it will make you all laugh.
Try to have a copy of the book for each family member.
It’s best if everyone has their own copy, so they can read at their own pace and make notes or highlights if they want to. Used bookstores can help with this, but ebooks are also a good option. See if your library offers lending through Hoopla; everyone in your family can check out the same book at once through their site. If you buy ebooks through Amazon, turn on Family Lending so you can share your purchase with everyone.
Make your club meetings fun and easy.
Set aside a whole afternoon or evening.
When everyone’s had a chance to read the book, make your family book club time something special. You could just chat about it over dinner, but why not turn it into an event instead? Schedule the time in advance, and plan for it together. It will become something everyone in the family looks forward to.
Provide yummy treats and a relaxed atmosphere.
Adult books clubs usually go hand-in-hand with wine; for family book club, make it all about the snacks and treats! Try planning a menu that goes along with the book you’ve read that everyone can prepare together (bonus points if you make something actually eaten in the book).
Make your meeting place fun too. Scatter big cushions and lay around on the living room floor, or build a cozy blanket fort. Pitch a tent in the backyard and grab your flashlights for a nighttime meeting, or head to the park with a picnic. You could even consider visiting a location mentioned in the book!
Include a hands-on activity or craft.
Most kids will get bored pretty quickly if they’re just sitting around talking about a book. Give them something to keep their hands busy while you chat. Color a picture, make a craft, assemble your snacks … anything fun and hands-on will work.
Bonus tip: Has the book you read been made into a movie? Watch it together and talk about that too!
Check publisher websites for book club guides.
Many publishers have created book club or discussion guides as well as fun activities to go along with juvenile and young adult books. Look in the front or back of the book itself for a discussion guide, or visit the publisher’s website to see what they have available.
Don’t force a discussion—let it evolve.
Those discussion guides will only get you so far. If a question doesn’t seem to spark a lot of conversation, let it go and move on to another one. Sometimes it’s best to just start with what each person liked or didn’t like about the book. Your conversation may even seem to wander off-topic, and that’s okay. The whole idea is for the family to spend time together, connecting and exploring.
11 Great Family Book Club Selections
This round-up of established classics and modern favorites includes something for everyone, with a variety of genres and styles that both kids and adults will enjoy. We’ve included a hands-on activity to go with each one, too!
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The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin)
What It’s About: When Samuel Westing is found dead, the residents of a nearby apartment building are shocked to discover they’re all named in his will. Can they solve his mysterious clues to earn their inheritance … and find the killer? (Ages 8+, discussion guide here)
Book Club Activity: Make “Wanted” posters for the characters. There are a lot of them, so have each family member choose their favorite character to illustrate. Learn more at Little Piece of Tape.
More Like This: Love mysteries? Find more selections here.
Wonder (R. J. Palacio)
What It’s About: Auggie was born with severe facial deformities and home-schooled in his early years, but is finally ready to begin public school in 5th grade. How will he handle the inevitable reactions of his classmates? Told from Auggie’s point of view as well as that of his family and classmates, this book touches all who reads it and sparked the “Choose Kind” movement. (ages 8+, discussion guide and activities here)
Book Club Activity: Grab the free printable cootie catcher from Nourishing My Scholar and encourage kindness within your own family and beyond. You can also check out the movie inspired by the book.
More Like This: Looking for more books about what it’s like to be different? Here are 17 terrific options.
Esperanza Rising (Pam Muñoz Ryan)
What It’s About: Set during the Great Depression, this book follows the story of Esperanza, a privileged Mexican girl whose life takes a sudden dramatic turn after the tragic death of her father. Now living in a California farm labor camp with her mother, Esperanza faces discrimination, unprecedented physical labor, and financial struggles. When her mother becomes sick and unable to work, it’s up to Esperanza to find a way forward. (ages 8+, discussion guide here)
Book Club Activity: Have a feast of the various fruits and vegetables used as chapter titles in Esperanza Rising. Talk about how they symbolize the changes in Esperanza’s life throughout the story. Learn more at Scholastic.
More Like This: Check out this list to find more books about characters seeking social justice while facing racism, poverty, and discrimination.
Charlotte’s Web (E. B. White)
What It’s About: This enduring classic about the power of friendship might be the first book your kids read that makes them reach for the tissues. The tale of Wilbur the runty pig and his friend Charlotte, a spider who makes him famous, has a heart-breaking ending that can help kids come to terms with death as a part of life. (8+, discussion guide here)
Book Club Activity: Make a paper plate spider using words that describe each person, cut from newspapers or magazines. Learn more at STEAM Powered Family.
More Like This: If animals are your thing, try one of these 29 wonderful books about dogs.
I Am Malala (Malala Yousafzai)
What It’s About: Most adults have heard Malala’s story: shot in the head simply because she dared to attend school when the Taliban said she couldn’t, she survived and went on to inspire change at home and around the world. This special edition for young readers includes extra photos and biographical material and makes some of the more difficult information easier to handle. (ages 10+, discussion guide here)
Book Club Activity: Color the free printable page from Art With Jenny K. as you discuss the book. Watch the 2015 documentary film He Named Me Malala or look for videos of her speaking online to see her powerful impact in person.
More Like This: Read more about women who have changed the world with this list of 32 inspiring books.
The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
What It’s About: In this popular dystopian novel set in a not-so-distant future, children are compelled to compete in a vicious fight-to-the-death competition known as The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen’s struggle to not only survive, but change the very world itself, has captivated young adults and adults alike since its release. (ages 12+, discussion guide here)
Book Club Activity: Fold an origami mockingbird with step-by-step instructions from Wizzley. Mount it with a cut-out arrow for a cool keepsake to display.
More Like This: The literary world is chock-full of young adult dystopia these days. Try The Maze Runner series, The Great Library series, and Lois Lowry’s classic The Giver.
Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqueline Woodson)
What It’s About: Well-known author Woodson shares what it was like to grow up as an African-American in the 60s and 70s. Her compelling story of dividing her time between urban New York and rural South Carolina is told entirely in verse, but is surprisingly accessible even for those who don’t consider themselves poetry fans. (ages 10+, discussion guide here)
Book Club Activity: Write your own autobiographical poems! Use the template from The Idea Door to have each family member create a poem about themselves. Then share the poems at your book club meeting.
More Like This: Want to try more poetry? This list of novels in verse has some terrific suggestions.
Hoot (Carl Hiaasen)
What It’s About: When Roy moves to Florida, he quickly makes some oddball friends (and enemies), and finds himself embroiled in the attempt to stop development from destroying the habitat of a colony of burrowing owls. (8+, discussion guide here)
Book Club Activity: Make your own family of cute owls with an easy wood slice craft. Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls has all the instructions you need.
More Like This: If you’re interested in learning more about protecting the environment, try this collection of books.
Amina’s Voice (Hena Khan)
What It’s About: Amina is Pakistani-American, and her best friend Soojinn is Korean. They’ve always been “different together,” but as they enter middle school, Soojinn begins to contemplate changing her name and becoming “more American.” Amina’s struggles with the changes in Soojinn, along with her own identity issues, are highlighted when her mosque is attacked and she must decide whether she wants to blend in—or stand out. (ages 8+, discussion guide here)
Book Club Activity: As Amina and Soojin learn in the book, names are incredibly important. Talk about your own family names, including how they were chosen and what they mean. Plus, try this cool art project from Kitchen Table Classroom that turns your name into a crazy creature!
More Like This: Want to read more about characters from different cultures? Try this list inspired by the #OwnVoices movement.
Holes (Louis Sachar)
What It’s About: When Stanley Yelnats is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile corrections facility, he expects hardship. But he could never foresee his strange daily task of … digging holes. He soon discovers this camp has connections to his own past, in a story that unfolds with lots of intriguing twists and turns. (ages 10+, discussion guide here)
Book Club Activity: Mix up your own batch of spiced peaches to enjoy during your book club meeting. Get the recipe from Savvy Eats here.
More Like This: Sachar wrote a follow-up to Holes called Small Steps. He’s written a lot of other books too, including the incredibly popular Wayside School series.
Drama (Raina Telgemeier)
What It’s About: In this graphic novel, middle schooler Callie gets involved in the theater production and learns that there’s as much drama backstage as there is when the curtain goes up. Teen relationships, including LGBTQ themes and accepting others’ differences, form the basis for this engrossing story. (ages 11+, discussion guide here)
Book Club Activity: Give writing a graphic novel yourself a try. Author Raina Telgemeier gets you started with this free printable from Scholastic.
More Like This: Explore these 30 engaging books featuring LGBTQ characters or storylines for kids of all ages.
Looking for more family fun? Watch one of these 25 Family Movies Every Kid Should See.
Plus, 50+ Best Streaming Documentaries to Watch as a Family.